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CHP urges early vaccination before winter influenza season arrives
     In view of the upcoming cool weather, the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health today (November 23) urged the public, particularly children, the elderly and those with underlying illnesses, to receive vaccination as early as possible to prevent seasonal influenza.

     "Although local seasonal influenza activity has remained at the baseline recently, in anticipation of the coming winter influenza season, the public should stay alert and get vaccinated early as it takes about two weeks for antibodies to develop in the body after vaccination. Personal, hand and environmental hygiene are key to preventing influenza and other respiratory illnesses," a spokesman for the CHP said.

     The Government launched the Vaccination Subsidy Scheme (VSS) (subsidised vaccination) and the Government Vaccination Programme (GVP) (free vaccination) on October 20 and November 3 respectively. As of November 20, about 147 000 doses of seasonal influenza vaccines had been administered via the VSS, of which about 54 000 were for eligible children aged from 6 months to under 12 years. About 152 000 doses were administered under the GVP, of which about 103 000 were for eligible community-living elderly people aged 65 or above.

     The percentage tested positive for seasonal influenza viruses was 7.08 per cent last week among respiratory specimens received by the CHP's Public Health Laboratory Services Branch. Most detections were influenza A(H3N2). Three institutional outbreaks of influenza-like illness affecting 15 persons were recorded this week as of yesterday (November 22). In the past four weeks, outbreaks mainly occurred in elderly homes and primary schools.

     "If students or staff develop fever or respiratory symptoms, schools should strongly advise them not to return to campus and to promptly seek medical advice. Management of schools should observe precautions on campus to prevent possible transmission," the spokesman added.

     Institutions and schools are reminded to follow the Guidelines on Prevention of Communicable Diseases on preventive and control measures as well as management of outbreaks, which should be reported to the CHP for prompt follow-up.

     The public should maintain good personal and environmental hygiene for protection against influenza and other respiratory illnesses:
  • Receive seasonal influenza vaccination for personal protection;
  • Wash hands with liquid soap and water properly whenever possibly contaminated;
  • When hands are not visibly soiled, clean them with 70 to 80 per cent alcohol-based handrub;
  • Cover the nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing, and wash hands thoroughly afterwards;
  • Dispose of soiled tissue paper properly in a lidded rubbish bin;
  • Put on a surgical mask when respiratory symptoms develop;
  • Maintain good indoor ventilation;
  • When influenza is prevalent, avoid going to crowded or poorly ventilated public places; high-risk individuals may consider putting on surgical masks in such places; and
  • Maintain a balanced diet, exercise regularly, take adequate rest, do not smoke and avoid overstress.

     The public may visit the CHP's pages for more information: the influenza page and the weekly Flu Express report.
Ends/Wednesday, November 23, 2016
Issued at HKT 17:10
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